Richard Stallman Slams Ubuntu Over Amazon Integration, Calls It “Spyware”

Richard Stallman Slams Ubuntu Over Amazon Integration, Calls It “Spyware”

The prominent free software advocate Richard Stallman has launched a surprise attack on the Ubuntu Linux operating system, likening it to “spyware” and urging a South American free software association not to promote it anymore.

Stallman’s outburst follows the October release of Ubuntu version 12.10 last October, which features integrated Amazon search within its Dash desktop search bar. As part of that integration, Ubuntu now collects data on its user’s desktop search activity and forwards this to Amazon, a move that prompted Stallman to accuse the OS of “spying on its users”.

Canonical, the company that develops Ubuntu, has been heavily criticized for integrating the ‘feature’, despite its protestations that all user data is anonymized before being sent to Amazon. The developer says that people can choose to opt out of the service, but nevertheless dozens of angry Ubuntu users have complained that they are now being bombarded by Amazon ads in response to general desktop queries.

Upset with the move, Stallman requested that the Festival Latinoamericano de Instalación de Software Libre (FLISOL) organization stop promoting the Ubuntu OS at its events, a request that was flatly denied on the basis that is limits user’s freedom of choice. In response, Stallman fired off an angry retort to the organization’s entire mailing list last Sunday night. Parts of the email were posted on the website Groklaw earlier today:

“The issue I raise is about what should happen at FLISOL events. Give away copies of Ubuntu or not? Promote Ubuntu or no? I asked the organizers of the event that they, as a policy, not distribute or promote Ubuntu.

“Freedom of users is something else, and there isn’t a conflict between a user’s freedom and my request. If someone decides to install Ubuntu, I would consider it a mistake, but it’s his own choice to do it. What I ask is that you don’t participate, help or suggest that he do it. I didn’t request that you block him from doing so.

“As a matter of principle, I don’t believe anyone has a right, morally, to distribute proprietary software, that is, software that deprives the users of freedom. When the user controls his own software, he can install what he wants and no one can stop him. But today’s issue isn’t about him, what he does, but rather what you do with him.”

The email was only sent out last night, so it’s a bit early to tell if he will get kind of reaction he’s hoping for, though one would imagine that FLISOL dropping Ubuntu would be a pretty shocking move to make. Even so, as the founder and president of the Free Software Foundation and the author of the General Public License, Stallman is a very influential voice in the free software community, and while the points he makes might seem a bit trivial, it wouldn’t be a big surprise if people started paying attention to what he’s saying.

Mike Wheatley

Mike Wheatley is a senior staff writer at SiliconANGLE. He loves to write about Big Data and the Internet of Things, and explore how these technologies are evolving and helping businesses to become more agile.

Before joining SiliconANGLE, Mike was an editor at Argophilia Travel News, an occassional contributer to The Epoch Times, and has also dabbled in SEO and social media marketing. He usually bases himself in Bangkok, Thailand, though he can often be found roaming through the jungles or chilling on a beach.

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  1. nymiro stallman en la seva linia

  2. jordiv sí, no se perquè però tinc debilitat pel paio :-)

  3. nymiro jo soc mes de Torvalds, més en la meva línia.

  4. jordiv volia dir que tinc debilitat per la futilitats dels seus arguments ben intencionats :-)

  5. “Dozens of angry Ubuntu users” out of 20 million+?  This doesn’t exactly sound like a grassroots protest. Is flipping the Amazon switch to “Off” so difficult for even new users that this qualifies as “spyware”? 
    And having used 12.10 on one of my machines for a while, I only see Amazon products in the bottom row of the Dash. Does that truly qualify as “bombarded”?
    Just curious. While I respect rms and his focus on user freedom, this seems to me to be a bit of a tempest in a teacup.

  6. nymiro I en referència al article opino que ell també limita el usuari i que si fos per ell estariem tots currant en hurd i emacs.

  7. jordiv això seria terrible, tothom sap que le editor definitiu és vim

  8. @ricegf
     Agreed, but I wonder if rms is just worried that if we accept Ubuntu doing this, what’s to say they won’t allow further integration later on down the line, which might one day not include an “off” switch. Any move in this direction would be a slippery slope…

  9. @ricegf then I suppose your happy with Unity’s intergration with Geo-Location servers where-as the rest of us have been watching how it’s fast becoming an intergrated part of the Ubuntu desktop end user experiance. ie: Geoclue & Zeitgeist not even mentioning Amazon

  10. @Mike_Wheatley which might one day not include an “off switch?” they’ve already done that with UNITY!

  11. zooo3y The Amazon integration gets every desktop search you run apparently. Not a wise move on their part!

  12. GNULinuxGuy That just seems totally at odds with the brand. Are you an #Unbuntu guy?

  13. zooo3y They claim it’s anonymized and can be disabled, but this is the sort of thing people don’t want in their OS. I am not.

  14. GNULinuxGuy what’s your flavour?

  15. zooo3y Depends on the role of the machine, but I tend to lean towards Debian.

  16. Well, Stallman is an idiot. This guy desperately needs professional help, likely from a psychologist or someone like that!

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